There were plenty of positives for the British Para table tennis team to take into the Paralympic Games in Paris after taking three gold medals in the doubles events on the final day of the ITTF Czech Para Open in Ostrava.

World champions Billy Shilton & Paul Karabardak (men’s class 14; pictured above), Joshua Stacey & Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 18) and Fliss Pickard & Bly Twomey (women’s class 14) all won their respective events while Will Bayley & Martin Perry (men’s class 14) took silver and there were bronze medals for Stacey & Twomey (mixed class 17) and Megan Shackleton with her Czech partner Petr Svatos (mixed class 7).

Men’s class 14

Billy Shilton & Paul Karabardak progressed to the quarter-finals as winners of group 2 after 3-0 wins against Filip Prchlik & Jan Malec from Czechia and Aleksej Radukic & Nemanja Majkic from Serbia.

They beat Russian Seyed Hosseinipour, competing here as an individual neutral athlete, & Ibrahim Hamadtou from Egypt 3-0 and then beat Fredrik Skjold Hinze & Krizander Magnussen from Norway 3-0 in the semi-final.

Will Bayley & Martin Perry also progressed as winners of group 3 after 3-0 wins against the Norwegians Skjold Hinze & Magnussen and Lukas Maxa & Petr Hnizdo from Czechia.

They fought back from 2-0 down to beat Daniel Horut & Zbynek Lambert from Czechia 11-7 in the fifth and came through another five-set battle against Sam Gustafsson & Jonas Hansson from Sweden 11-8 in the fifth to set up an all-GB final. 

At 1-1 Shilton & Karabardak edged a tight third set 14-12 and it proved decisive as they went on to take the fourth 11-4 for a 3-1 win.

“I’m happy to win gold with Paul and I think we played some really good doubles,” said Shilton. “It is never nice to play against your team-mates and I thought it was a very high-level match.

“Will and Martin are a very good pair and credit to them they played a really good match, but I think Paul and I were at our best level in the final and played some really good stuff, so I’m really pleased.”

“I thought the final was a fantastic match,” said Karabardak, “and both teams played well and deserved to win. We managed to take the third set 14-12 after some really big rallies and I think that was crucial and gave us the platform to go on and win. Billy and I played really well, and this will give us good momentum going into Paris.”

Although disappointed to lose, Bayley and Perry can also take a lot of positives from the tournament.

“With each match we got stronger as a team,” said Perry. “We played a great match in the semi-final to beat Sweden and the final against Billy and Paul was an absolute spectacle and it was great to be a part of it.

“Credit to Billy and Paul as they played amazing, but I also think Will and I did as well. Our communication was great, and it was genuinely the best doubles match I’ve been part of and that’s saying something considering I was on the losing side.”

“We played well,” said Bayley. “It was a good win in the semi-final against the world-ranked number two pair, so I was happy with that.”

Men’s class 18

Playing in only their second tournament together Joshua Stacey & Aaron McKibbin progressed as winners of group 2 with 3-0 wins against Tomas Novotny & Jan Muska from Czechia and Pawel Wlodyka & Marcin Zielinski from Poland.

They won their quarter-final against Tibor Chmela & Vit Spalek from Czechia 3-0 and came through in five sets against Daniel Gustafsson & Emil Andersson, taking the deciding set 11-3 after the experienced Swedish pair had fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2.

In the final Stacey & McKibbin lost the first set to Igor Misztal & Maksym Chudzicki but then led 2-1 and took the deciding set 11-7 after the Polish pair had levelled at 2-2, to win their second consecutive tournament after taking gold in Slovenia last month.

“I’m really pleased,” said Stacey. “Aaron and I displayed the same togetherness that we did in Slovenia. They were obviously two tough matches in the semi and the final and I think that was what got us through – communication and trust in each other. I’m very excited to see how we do in Paris and I think we’ve got a very good chance of taking a medal.”

Ashley Facey was defending his doubles title here with Koyo Iwabuchi from Japan and they topped group 1 after 3-0 wins against the Swedish/Belgian partnership of Niklas Westerberg & Hamza Taleb and Theo Bishop with his German partner Mio Wagner. They went out after a 3-2 loss in the quarter-finals to Pawel Wlodyka and Marcin Zielinski from Poland.

Theo Bishop & Mio Wagner progressed to the quarter-finals after a 3-2 win against Westerberg & Taleb but went out after a 3-0 loss to Gustafsson & Andersson.

Women’s class 14

In their first group match Fliss Pickard & Bly Twomey twice came back to level against Cajsa Stadler & Emelie Endre from Sweden but lost a tight deciding set 12-10. They beat Grace Williams & her Polish partner Barbara Jablonka from Poland 3-0 and progressed to the semi-finals as group winners after Williams & Jablonka beat Stadler & Endre 3-1, while Williams & Jablonka were unlucky to miss out on a place in the semi-finals on countback.

Pickard & Twomey beat Nora Korneliussen & Jenny Slettum from Norway 3-0 and after losing a tight first set in the final to the German/French combination of Nina Reck & Morgen Caillaud 12-10 they lost only seven points in taking the next three sets for a 3-1 win.

“I thought the way we applied ourselves and came back from losing our first match showed our character as a team,” said Pickard, “and after that I knew we were capable of winning the tournament. We have a lot to work on before Paris, but I know we will both work hard and we’ll be ready.”

“I think Fliss and I have grown as a team since we started playing together,” said 14-year-old Twomey. “We have connected more, and I am so pleased to play with such a talented person as Fliss. I’m looking forward to Paris now.”

Mixed class 7

Megan Shackleton teamed up with Petr Svatos, the class 3 Tokyo Paralympic team bronze medallist from Czechia. They were 3-0 winners against Martin Lukas from Czechia & Jana Valentova from Slovakia and progressed to the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win against Ahmed Elmahsy & Mona Abdelhak from Egypt.

A 3-0 win against Henrik Andersson & Doris Mader from Austria took them through to the semi-finals where they lost 3-0 to Boris Travnicek & Alena Kanova from Slovakia.

“It was great playing doubles with Petr,” said Shackleton, “and a good opportunity for me to play in the mixed class 7 and test myself against the guys – especially serve and receive. We made a pretty solid team and we’ve never played together before so we can be proud of our efforts.”

Mixed class 17

New partnership Joshua Stacey & Bly Twomey were 3-1 winners against Filip Prchlik & Tereza Cakorova from Czechia and then lost 3-1 to the world bronze medallists from Poland, Piotr Grudzien & Karolina Pek.

They progressed to the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against the individual neutral athlete Seyed Hosseinipour & Nadine Braunleder from Germany and started well in their semi-final against Koyo Iwabuchi & Yuri Tomono, taking the first set before the experienced Japanese pair came back to take the match 3-1.

“Playing with Bly has been really fun,” said Stacey. “It’s very different with her being as young as she is, and she just enjoys playing regardless of the situation. I definitely look forward to playing more with her in the future and seeing how far we can take it.”

“Josh and I played really well,” said Twomey. “This was our first tournament playing together and he’s an amazing person and an even better player. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Mixed class 14

Theo Bishop & Cajsa Stadler from Sweden won their first match against Hamza Taleb from Belgium & Hanna Hammad from Egypt 3-0 but did not progress after losing 3-0 to Krizander Magnussen & Nora Korneliussen from Norway and 3-1 to Marcin Zielinski & Barbara Jablonka from Poland.